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Toyota -- both reinvented and reborn – searches for new life

TOKYO -– Recent ad campaigns for Toyota clearly show a company yearning for new life.

Its planned return to Super Bowl advertising on Sunday carries the theme of reinvention. The idea: Toyota has reinvented the dowdy Camry sedan, with every feature a person could want.

The funny, 30-second spots draw inspiration from a similarly lighthearted campaign underway in Japan. Those taglines: “Reborn” and “Fun to Drive, again.”

The Japanese message is a throwback to an earlier “Fun to Drive” campaign from the 1980s, when Toyota offered more pulse-quickening nameplates such as the Supra, AE86 and MR2.

“Reborn” debuted in conjunction with last December’s Tokyo Motor Show, where Toyota unveiled the Toyota 86 sporty car, which will be sold in the United States as the Scion FR-S.

But why the Budweiser-esque red ribbon with ReBORN emblazoned across it? That is a word play on the Japanese pronunciation of “reborn,” which better approximates “ribbon.” No joke.

The U.S. and Japanese ads obviously pitch to different senses of humor.

But for a company that has been hammered for three straight years -- first by the global financial meltdown, then the recall crisis, then Japan’s killer earthquake -- Toyota definitely wants 2012 to be a year for reinventing itself and starting life anew.

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